“Solutions First, Products Second”
American author, philanthropist, and life coach, Tony Robbins, once said, “You either master money, or on some level, money masters you.” If someone doesn’t have the time or the interest in learning how to master money, it is probably a good idea to work with an investment professional that does.
“Our focus is on providing strategies and solutions that are integral to clients’ financial peace of mind, now and in the future. We are constantly working to enhance the expertise, resources, and freedom we employ to develop the strategies that can help clients achieve their financial goals,” says Penni Johnston-Gill, a Senior Investment Advisor with Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management Canada.
Penni is a self-made woman. She started her financial services career as a receptionist, then moved up to Executive Assistant. Her boss suggested that her excellent rapport building and people skills would make her a good broker. “At the time, I didn't know exactly what a broker did or even what a trade was. That was more than twenty years ago,” Penni says with a smile.
While honing her academic credentials, Penni gained industry experience as an Institutional Sales Assistant working her way up to a Senior Investment Advisor.
“Because Canaccord is very entrepreneurial, we offer many solutions that are just not available at a bank. Our approach to problem solving is also very different - we focus on Solutions First. Although an important part of the Plan, products are always Second,” she explains.
Philosophy & Approach
Penni’s financial planning process is personalized and goal-based. “Every time I meet a new prospect, we have coffee, or even several coffees. Fit is so important. I never rush the “courtship” process. It often takes months before a prospect becomes a client. I need to know who someone is, before I can figure out how best to help them achieve their goals.”
After they have agreed to work together, Penni and her team dive into preparing a personalized Financial Plan. This “big picture” document is the financial roadmap and Penni, the GPS. “Everything starts with the Financial Plan. But, it doesn’t stop there. The Plan is a living document that is updated as goals are reached and circumstances change,” she says. When it comes time to make investment recommendations, Penni puts on her institutional money manager’s investment hat and shops the world with globally renowned portfolio managers.
“I can relate to most people, as a working professional, as a small business owner, and as a parent. We both have to be sure that we can work together for the process and the relationship to work,” she explains. “Because I focus on relationships, I have many of the same clients I started with. We know so much about each other’s lives that clients feel like members of my own extended family.”
Penni believes the secret to having it all – professional success and a modicum of work/life balance - is to be very diligent in terms of your time and focus. She divides her time between her family (she is a mom of two boys), financial clients, and her ownership in a fitness facility. “Owning my own small business helps me to better relate to other professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners. And because I am not responsible for the day-to-day operations, I have a healthy work/life balance allowing me to exercise, meet more people, and have fun."
Penni also believes the secret to developing a good working partnership is communication. “I encourage clients to contact me about anything. For example, one client recently received two job offers and called me to talk through which offer was better. Her investment account was never mentioned.” She always tailors the frequency of communication to a specific client’s style – some may want to talk to her three times a week and others may only want to hear from her a couple times a year. “I’m good with all forms of contact, as long as it’s personal contact.
Penni’s ideal client is someone that buys into what she is doing. “I want to have life-long relationships and to be a full partner in clients’ financial and life journeys. If I’m trying to move them forward and they are pulling in the opposite direction it won’t work for either of us.” Penni often works with families and ensures succession is built into every Plan.
“Everyone has a picture of what their financial dreams look like. Even spouses can have different dreams which is why we need everything to be laid out on paper. How does someone know if they are winning or losing if they don’t have concrete goals in mind?”
“Clients often need a little help seeing the big picture and putting their dreams into specific, measurable, and achievable goals. I offer guidance in helping them to develop their big picture. Then, I keep them on track, staying focused, and achieving what they set out to do.”
Part of making well-rounded and informed financial decisions is to include clients’ existing professional relationships, such as their accountant and their lawyer, in the core team. If required, Penni augments the core team with specialists from her own network. “We all work together to help and protect the client.” Does her approach work? It must - most of her new clients come from referrals.
Up Close & Personal
Penni believes in lifelong learning. She earned her Professional Financial Planner Designation (2007) and received her Derivatives Fundamentals and Options License (2014) from The Canadian Securities Institute. She is also licensed to work with U.S. residents and is currently working towards her Chartered Investment Manager designation.
She thinks that education and financial literacy hold the key to making good financial decisions. “I teach my kids about money. They have their own bank accounts, make their own deposits and withdrawals, and set their own goals. She is also committed to client education and hosts regular lunch presentations.
But, it’s not always about education or money. Penni believes it behooves those that have the time, flexibility and resources to give back. She managers her son’s hockey team, drives him and his friends to and from games, and fundraises for the team.
As a last word, Penni says, “Although it appears as if I’m working most of the time, it doesn’t feel like work. I think American author and Speaker, Jim Rohn, put it best, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” By spending evenings and weekends with the kids, and daytime hours with clients, I have the best of both worlds.
Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides Category
Penni Johnston-Gill, PFP
Senior Investment Advisor – Options and US Licensed
Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management
Suite 2400, 520 -3rd Avene SW,
Calgary, AB T2P 0R3